Saturday, 29 December 2012

Pre-Christmas action in Scotland

I’ve not kept up with racing as much as I should have in the last two weeks. However, I’ve done a summary of significant performances the mid-December action in Scotland which included a couple of very decent cards at Kelso and Musselburgh

KELSO – Sunday December 9th

Borders National day at Kelso saw testing going once again and a strong cold wind chilling spectators to the bone. Ironically the roof of the old stand was one of the better places to be with the viewing place a little more sheltered due to the wind direction.

Alan Swinbank was hauled in front of the stewards for the running of PHOENIX RETURNS in the opening two mile novices' hurdle, but the latter stayed on for third having been outpaced down the far side. He should be seen to better effect with a stiffer test.
EVERYLASTING looks a chasing type and kept on for fourth without ever threatening. He’s one to keep in mind long term.

RIVAL D’ESTRUVAL was impressive in seeing off a small field in the Paris Pike Novices’ Chase. He jumped superbly and was in no danger in the last half mile. He will now have a rest before taking on the National Hunt Chase at Cheltenham, a race for which he would be no forlorn hope.
PAPAMOA stayed on well enough for second. He stays and stays and will be one to keep in mind long for long distance handicap chases at his own level.
SAPHIR RIVER disappointed once again. He chased Rival D’Estruval from four out but never got near him and was tried from two out. He will now be dropped back in distance.

Poor CASSIUS was labouring as he passed the stands in the handicap hurdle, faltered as he was pulled up and collapsed not to rise again having suffered a heart attack. A blow to the small Mactaggart stable and a sad loss of a familiar performer at Kelso.

DOUGLAS JULIAN is an unreliable performer, but he jumped superbly to win the Persimmon Homes Champion Chase in which the two fences in the straight were omitted (low sun). Always up the pace, he asserted from two out but cannot be relied upon to repeat the form.
LIE FORRIT stayed on well for second, an encouraging sign after a couple of below par runs.

In the Borders National, won by Midlands raider Mortimers Cross, QUACITY stepped up significantly in trip and stayed on in the latter stages. He was running from out of the handicap here and he will have other opportunities against lesser opposition.
COTSWOLD CHARMER was dismounted after the last and transported back to the stables in the horse ambulance. One of the backmarkers had really belted the fence going away from the stands and we did wonder if it had been Cotswold Charmer, he certainly wasn’t going well after that. The good news was that Sam Twiston-Davies ‘tweeted’ that the gelding got home to Naunton safely.

MUSSELBURGH – Monday December 10th

Musselburgh put on an excellent Monday card with £55,000 prize money up for grabs. The race were well subscribed, aided by the decent going which was better here than at any course in recent days.

The opening conditional jockeys’ handicap chase was won by BHALTAIR , who doesn’t look a typical Donald McCain and isn’t the easiest to catch right. Racing in touch, he Bhaltair forged clear down the straight, but wouldn’t be one to trust for a repeat.
EXOTIC MAN has been lightly raced of late, but hinted at a possible win to come with a fair performance in second place. He looks capable of winning a lowly middle distance handicap chase.

The title of ‘Most Northerly Trainer’ was taken over by Jackie Stephen, based way north of any other trainer at Inverurie in Aberdeenshire. The permit holder ran SAFARI ADVENTURES in the first race, but couldn’t arrest this one’s slide. He raced near the front until the ninth but quickly dropped to the rear.
Mrs Stephen ran RELAND in the three mile hurdle, but this one struggled to see out three miles in points last year, and dropped away in the last mile. He's capable of making more of a mark in middle distance low grade handicap hurdles.

WALTZ DARLING won nicely in the two mile maiden hurdle, jumping tidily and staying on well. He's got the build of one who can make a chaser and he should go on to better things.

Progressive SWIFT ARROW won a competitive two mile chase. He came to challenge at the last and asserted on the flat. He is now 3 from 4 over fences and I don't think we have seen the best of him yet. He could be back here on New Year's Day for the Honest Toun Handicap Chase over another half mile.

PARC DES PRINCES was given an excellent hold up ride by Dougie Costello in the 2m 4f handicap hurdle, being produced after the last to snatch the race on the line. He's best suited by decent ground and needs holding up, a big field suiting the latter requirement.
UBALTIQUE looked the winner at the last but was caught on the urn-in and might be best dropped back in trip.
CASTLETOWN BRIDGE was not disgraced in fourth and looks a chasing type long term. He could win a less competitive hurdle in the mean time.

Lucy Alexander was seen at her absolute best on ISLA PEARL FISHER, galvanising her father's improving stayer to overhaul Blenheim Brook ridden by Tony McCoy. The Alexander family's gelding looked to have work to do coming out of the back straight, but he does stay and joined the winner jumping the last. His target will be the Scottish National.
BLENHEIM BROOK lost nothing in defeat, looking the winner two out only to be caught on the run-in. He is in good form and should win a similar event soon.
BALDING BANKER was not disgraced in third and appeared to see out the trip. He was lightest raced of these and can step up before long.

SPITZ was impressive in winning the closing bumper, pulling clear from two furlongs out. He looks a bit of a keen type and should have improvement with time.
YES DADDY is a nice jumping sort, worth noting once going hurdling. He was found out for pace here but not disgraced in third.
CLONDAW FLICKA is well regarded in the Russell stable but looks to need a bit of time, as have a few bumper animals from the yard. He will put his fifth place here behind him in time.
SHARIVARRY is a big jumping sort, found out for pace here. He won two points in 2012 and will improve for going over obstacles under Rules.

MUSSELBURGH - Sunday December 16th

Musselburgh were awarded an extra meeting after their November abandonment. Prize money was a bit down on the usual, but given the short notice for this Levy board financed fixture then that's understandable.

LORD WISHES was a comfortable winner of the maiden hurdle and could be aimed at a handicap next time. He is a nice prospect.

BLADES LAD was second to Totalize in the juvenile hurdle. Flattening two out didn't help, but he looked the winner until close home and done on the line. He should win a similar event.

IMPERIAL VIC was bought to go chasing but has proved a fair performer over hurdles, winning for the second time in the staying novice hurdle. Connections are well chuffed at his hurdling efforts and he remains a potentially exciting animal once going chasing.

PRESENT LODGER disappointed in the bumper. This well regarded import from Ireland was expected to produce much better than eighth place. That being said, the stable's bumper horses are not hurried, subsequent Cheltenham winner Brindisi Breeze having suffered his only Rules defeat here last season to an ordinary sort, so expect Present Lodger to step up significantly in time. The race winner AMISFIELD LAD showed some speed, and he's only a three-year-old, so maybe capable of a follow up and can make a mark over hurdles.

Fro those of you looking to  shake off the effects of Hogmanay celebrations, Musselburgh hold their New Year Meeting, featuring a couple of competitive handicap horse races, plus the New Year Sprint handicap race for human sprinters. There should be a great atmosphere and some cracking contests. For those unable to make it, the meeting may well get top billing for the new Channel 4 Racing set up as Cheltenham is not certain to go ahead. The forecast suggests Musselburgh will go ahead, with half decent ground to boot.

Friday, 7 December 2012

Brian goes Boldly at Sandown

BOLD SIR BRIAN won in impressive style at Sandown this afternoon, quickly pulling clear of Pacha Du Polder in the closing stages. He wasn't foot perfect at his jumps but fiddled well at times and had stacks in hand at the finish. Lucinda Russell has pulled her six-year-old out of the King George Chase, the right thing to do as a there's a chance he might be taken off his feet around Kempton. His trainer is thinking more in terms of the Cheltenham Gold Cup long term, with a Wetherby engagement at Christmas time or another Sandown chase early in the New Year as options for 'next stop'. The way he came up the hill suggests longer trip than this 3 miles and half a furlong would prove no problem.

Meanwhile I'm cautiously optimistic that two decent upcoming Scottish cards will take place. All the frost is out of the ground at Kelso and, given that there's only a degree of frost forecast tonight and none Saturday night., course covers should suffice to make sure the Borders National takes place, supported by a number of decent contests though field sizes aren't quite what they might be due to the continuing testing ground.

Musselburgh are forecast to avoid all but a touch of frost before their decent card on Monday 10th December. With three £10,000 pots, one race boasting total prize money of £12,000 and good ground likely, the entry for the meeting is impressive and should guarantee competitive racing. I presume that one race might divide, thus giving an 11:50 start, so breakfast on course might be on the agenda! If you can get along to this meeting it may prove a decent afternoon.